Career Advice: Coaching By Cath

Top Tips For Dealing With Unexpected And Unwanted Change At Work

There's no doubt about it - we're all dealing with more change in our workplaces than previous generations ever did before us. And a lot of difficult changes are being forced on us, as a result of broader changes across the world. Nobody really wanted the economic recession and the changes it's brought in our workplaces and businesses, and a lot of us haven't wanted the constant restructuring, re-staffing and system changes going on all the time in our workplaces either. But as the world becomes more interconnected, as technology continue to advance, and as we all try to keep up and stay competitive in a global economy, we're all having to deal with more change than ever before, whether we like it or not...

Change is always a bit difficult, but it's even harder when change is not your choice. When you're pushed into a change, there's often a sense of shock, because your life is being sent in an unexpected direction, and you haven't had time to process the changes and get used to the way that your life will be different. Sometimes it can feel very dis-empowering to have a change thrust upon you, and it can be a big reminder of all the things that are outside of your control, which can be pretty scary to realize. And of course there's always a sense of loss when change happens - you're having to let go of something, somebody, a role, an identity, or a way of being. And when change is forced on you, you're often not given the space to process and grieve those losses.

Keep Moving
When change is thrust on us, we often resist the change, and try to prevent it from happening, or we try to stick with the plan we had in place before the change started to uproot everything. As Byron Katie likes to say, "When we argue with reality, we always lose." When we try to resist change, we often end up sabotaging our own success because we're using our energy in wasteful, unproductive, even destructive ways, which causes more frustration, fatigue and disappointment. When you're putting your energy into resisting or blocking change, then you're going to be blocking your own movement forward as well, and you'll find yourself stuck in the middle of the change process, in no-man's land.

There will always be parts of change at work that feel difficult, but the important thing about the change process is to not get stuck in the middle of the change. I like what Einstein said: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving..."I think all change in our lives is like that - to keep your balance through change, just keep moving.

How to "find your balance and keep moving" when change is thrust upon you

  • Stop arguing with reality. Ask yourself if there's anything that you've been trying not to see, because it would be too painful to look at. Ask yourself what parts of the reality of these changes you've been resisting and trying to say "no" to. ‘Fess up and get totally honest with yourself about the reality you're dealing with.
  • Acknowledge the part of you that's been resisting the changes. Ask that part of you that's been resisting the change what it's been trying to do for you, by resisting the changes. Thank that part for wanting to keep you safe, wanting to protect what's important to you, or whatever else it's been trying to do for you.
  • Affirm that you're willing to let reality be, and that you're willing to adapt creatively and responsively, to use this change to become more of the person you want to be. You don't need to know how you'll do this yet - just affirm that you're willing, that you're saying "yes" to reality and to your own resourcefulness.
  • Express your disappointment, sadness, fear and anger - grieve. Active grieving releases stress, which will improve the quality of your thinking, and it's also another way of keeping moving.
  • Get out of other people's business. If you're thinking about the way you want other people in your workplace to change, so you can be happy, then you're in other people's business, and you're focusing on something you have very little control over - other people's thoughts, feelings and behavior. If you're focusing on what you can't control, you're putting your energy and attention into things that you probably can't change, which will only frustrate and dis-empower you even more. Focus on what you can control (your own thoughts, feelings and behavior), and you'll empower yourself and give yourself the reward of getting successful results for all your efforts. You'll also have a lot more energy for responding creatively, because you're not wasting energy trying to change stuff you probably can't change.
  • Notice and cut out victim language & complaining. When you're using victim language, like, "I must... I should... I have to..." or saying things like, "I couldn't help it when I..." or complaining about the things you can't change, then you're affirming destructive and dis-empowering ideas such as the idea that you don't have choice in how you respond in life, that you're not responsible for your actions or reactions, and that you're responsible for things you can't influence or change. This way of thinking and speaking will only make you feel awful and depressed, which will make you more likely to get stuck in the changes.
  • Decide what's important to you.When a change is thrust upon us, we often try to claw back to our previous goals and to focus on some specific thing we want that we're not getting. Realise that there are actually infinitely more different ways of satisfying what you need and creating what's important to you in your work - even if you can't see them right now. Take some time to get clear on your needs and values at work. As yourself, "What's important to me in my work, and rank your answers, so that you know what's most important to you, above everything else. Write about it, articulate it, talk about it. Be willing to say what you need and talk about what's important to you in conversation with other people in your workplace.
  • Start to ask smart questions, to uncover the Flipside, and the hidden opportunities. Questions are a powerful way to re-direct your attention and become aware of opportunities and options available in your industry that you hadn't noticed before. So start to question whether your current assessment of the situation is true, and whether there are other ways of looking at the situation that would present you with options and opportunities you hadn't seen before.

    But does that mean I have to let other people do whatever they want to me in my job?
    Adapting and responding creatively to change doesn't mean accepting everything that other people try to make you do. When you're resisting change, your focus is on trying to make the other person change or on trying to make life into the way you think it SHOULD be. When you're adapting and responding creatively to change, you're saying, "Yes, I acknowledge that's the way things are" and, realizing your own power, you're staying in the game and stepping forward to add your own contribution that flows from what's most important to you.

Perhaps the most important thing to realize about the change process is that it takes at least as much energy to adapt and respond creatively to change as it does to resist change. Often we think that resisting change is the easiest option, and that's why we so often do it, but letting go, committing to the game and being willing to adapt and respond creatively is much, much easier, and much, much more likely to get you the results you want.

Author: Cath Duncan

Cath DuncanCath Duncan is a life and leadership coach and CareerJunction's resident Career Coach. Through one-to-one coaching and projects like the Bottom-line Bookclub, Cath helps people learn the Agile Living Strategies for thriving at work in this high-change era.

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